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Pele, the volcano goddess

Pele has to be one of my favourite deities - I definitely have a penchant for fire-related myths.

Pele had to flee her home of Kahiki. She had seduced the husband of her sister Na-maka-o-Kaha’i, and boy was she mad. Na-maka-o-Kaha'i was a sea goddess you see, and Pele, being a goddess of fire, really didn't want to stick around to see what water would do to her.

Her brother, king of sharks, gave her a canoe to make her escape. They packed it with all the things they would need for a long voyage and set off, Pele, her brothers, and her favourite sister Hi’iaka, as an egg, nestled in her elbow.

They sailed and sailed and sailed, eventually coming to Lehua. Lehua was just a little cone sticking out of the water, but Pele thought this was as good as any place to call home. Pele tried to dig a fire pit, but everywhere she tried came up wet and soggy. Not ideal really. So she travelled on to the next island, Oahu. And the next, and the next, leaving volcanoes in her wake.

On the island of Maui, her sister Na-maka-o-Kaha'i finally caught up with her. A great battle ensued, the sisters fighting with all their might. Pele was volatile, had a temper and fire on her side, but Na-maka-o-Kaha'i had righteous anger. When the smoke finally cleared, Na-maka-o-Kaha'i had won, she tore the body and bones of Pele along the sea coast to create Kahiki-nui.

Pele, however, was not dead. With the last of her strength she made it to Hawai'i. There she dug her final fire pit, Halemaumau, at the top of Kilauea. Na-maka-o-Kaha'i cannot send her waves high enough to drown Pele's fire, and so she and her brothers and little Hi'iaka live there to this day. If you are very lucky on a dark night, you will still see the glow from Pele's fire rising up from Halemaumau.

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